Yiddish Lamberts: An Announcement and a Call for Help

Remember those funny pink celluloid cylinders made by a man named Thomas Lambert during the first few years of the 20th century in Chicago? Our CD, The Pink Lambert, was only the second release by Archeophone, back in 1999. Well, we’re seeing pink again.

A large block of Yiddish selections were among Lambert’s first releases, around 1901—titles including show tunes from Yiddish theater, operatic arias, and sacred numbers. A collection of many of these very early Lamberts was recently acquired by the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and they have reached out to us to put them out on a new CD. In turn, we have asked Mayrent Director Henry Sapoznik to shepherd the project, providing translations and context for material that is foreign even to people knowledgeable about Yiddish culture.

10 Lambert Cylinders featuring the earliest Yiddish material (photo  courtesy of the Mayrent Institute)

Lamberts come in a variety of colors: pink, wine, and black (Courtesy of the Mayrent Institute)

That’s because apparently these are the earliest known recordings of Yiddish music. It’s not clear why Lambert chose to market this material, but presumably he had an “in” with Chicago’s large Jewish community. One other mystery we’re trying to solve is why all the cylinders are announced “Standard Record,” instead of something like “Record made for the Lambert Company of Chicago,” which is the usual formula we hear. Has anybody out there got a clue?

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On the Blossom Trail


Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields. This union is how most people remember Blossom, but it’s only a quarter of the story of her marriages and professional partnerships (Adam Swanson Collection)

A while back we announced that we were working on a CD compilation of the recordings by Blossom Seeley, one of the most successful vaudeville artists of all time. Some of you have wondered what ever happened to the project, and we have an answer for you.

After doing a little poking around into the life and career of the entertainer, we realized what a remarkable figure she is—and that pretty much everything that is known about her early years is untrue. So we decided to do a thorough research job and to publish a much more detailed biography than ever before attempted or contemplated. This just requires time, and so that’s the reason for the delay.

Blossom made her first record in 1911 and then didn’t make another until 1921, but she did a lot of living on and off-stage before and in between those two visits to the Columbia studio. Going through trade magazines, newspapers, and other primary sources shows the extent of this woman’s drive, the ecstatic praise she received over years of performing, and the reach of her influence. Behind it all was a trail of tears: a lost childhood, three wrecked marriages, two abandoned children, an assault case on a famous paramour, an attempted suicide, jealously and manipulation of colleagues and competitors, and enough gossip to make Britney Spears raise an eyebrow.

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Songs of the Night Playlist and an Outtake

Taxi, by Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra (Ryan Barna Collection)

Taxi, by Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra (Ryan Barna Collection)

In our last installment, we gave you a taste of what is coming on our double-CD overview of the career of bandleader Joseph C. Smith and his Plaza Hotel outfit. Today we’re publishing the full playlist and giving you one of the songs that didn’t make the final cut.

Smith made his first recordings on September 25, 1916—four tracks, two of which were issued and two that were rejected. Both of the accepted takes are here, 10-inch “Money Blues” and 12-inch “Songs of the Night.” Then, in January 1917, he began a rigorous recording schedule that, with the exception of the first few months of 1918, didn’t let up until March 1922. Then he jumped labels and had sporadic recording dates through about March 1925, his final session.

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Introducing Joseph C. Smith

For you lovers of physical media, we want to tell you that our next CD, Dan W. Quinn’s Anthology: The King of Comic Singers, 1894-1917, will be released next Tuesday, June 16, 2015. It’s a beautiful digipak edition with a 52-page color booklet that will be offered at a discounted price for the first couple of weeks, so strike while the fire’s hot!

Our next project, slated for later this summer, is Songs of the Night, a two-CD overview of Joseph C. Smith and His Orchestra. With 47 songs from 1917 through 1925 provisionally lined up, this represents about a third of Smith’s complete recordings.

Joseph C. Smith

Joseph C. Smith (Archeophone Records collection)

Smith is one of those guys that we regularly get requests for. Fans who love the dance music of the 1910s and 1920s regard him as one of the most seminal figures of the American dance scene—a consummate professional and an innovator at the same time, one whose time in the spotlight was too brief, owing to the winds of fickle postwar fancy.

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